Steve’s sealed a novel writing about animals

Author and former RSPCA insprector Steve Greenhalgh in his uniform days with a feathered friend
Author and former RSPCA insprector Steve Greenhalgh in his uniform days with a feathered friend

STEVE Greenhalgh may well have heard of that old age about never working with children or animals.

But he’s obviously chosen to ignore it - especially the bit about animals.

book cover for Steve Greenhalgh

book cover for Steve Greenhalgh

Because for almost three decades he served as an RSPCA inspector which brought him into contact with all kinds of creatures - both great and small.

And it is these escapades and adventures which have now been recounted with both humour and poignancy in his debut novel, A Seal Pup In My Bath.

There are no prizes for guessing that the title might be a clue to one of his many mercy missions and it goes without saying that it makes delightful and entertaining reading - as does the incident with an angry, four-foot snake in a flimsy budgie cage and venturing out onto a fast-flowing river in a boat with only one oar to rescue a cat while Rolf Harris provided a running commentary for Animal Hospital.

Steve, now 60, is originally from Oldham - he still lives in his native Lancashire, in Accrington.

author and former RSPCA inspector Steve Greenhalgh

author and former RSPCA inspector Steve Greenhalgh

His career path took a number of twists and turns before he joined the RSPCA - but for an injury he could have become a professional footballer.

“At 16 years old, while playing for my home town team, Chadderton FC at Winton United, I was talent spotted by a scout for Manchester City,” he reveals.

“Who knows if it hadn’t been for a bad injury and then the rigid training regime, things could have been very different. Interestingly enough, David Platt, lived in the next street to me, played for Chadderton and then went onto Manchester City. He’s a bit younger than me of course,” laughs Steve.

After completing his studies he began work as a science technician, working in various laboratories but He reveals that he had always had an interest in animals.

“The prospect of a career in animal welfare had always appealed to me,” he says.

“A few years back I’d desperately wanted to be a vet but had soon realised the qualifications and the long training period were a step too far for me, then in then in 1973 I saw an a advert in the local newspaper about recruiting RSPCA inspectors. That ad was to change my life forever.”

Steve was to be posted to Accrington and managed to spend the whole of his career based in the district of Lancashire East.

“As an inspector you can be posted any where in England and Wales but it just so happened I started out in Accrington and then even after my first seven years when I was due to be moved, I remained on the patch but Lancashire east gave me plenty of variety, a real mixture of rural and urban and of course you’ve got the coast too because the area stretched as far as Blackpool.”

Steve adds that he did venture across the border into Yorkshire from time to time - but not in an official capacity.

“We weren’t supposed to stray into other branch areas but I could not resist the temptation of popping into the Halifax branch area, into Todmorden to Astin’s probably the world’s finest pie and strawberry tart shop,” he jokes.

Steve’s role brought him plenty of scope for adventures - including the time he was called out to Burnley College to rescue a pigeon, which turned out to be a bird of a different variety.

“The college was closed for the holidays and someone had rung about this pigeon at the top of a tower. Gaining entry was going to be a problem,” says Steve.

The upshot was a battle with a tipsy caretaker before eventually making his way to the top of the roof (“the lifts were shut down so it meant a long climb”) only to discover the pigeon was in fact a swan. Then there was just the small matter of getting the injured bird all the way down to ground level and safety.

Steve, who is married to Kathie, “my childhood sweetheart” retired in 2001 but admits he felt “lost.”

He had his music - he has written and performed folk music for a number of years and now plays with a band called The Yuve - and was already a published author (in 2002 he published Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in Blackburn and Hyndburne) so started to think about writing again, and was encouraged by Kathie and daughter Emma Kate to bring out a book about his experiences.

It was to be published this year and movingly dedicated to Kathie and Emma Kate, who tragically died in 2008, aged 29 from a brain tumour.

So what of the seal pup - inspiration for the title?

“It was about 11 o’clock one night when there was a knock at the door. It was a chap who had a seal pup in the back of his car, he’d come across it on the beach in Blackpool. Kathie had already guessed what I’d do and by the time I’d got him out of the van, she’d filled the bath. If you’ve ever looked into the face of a seal pup, you’ll know what sad eyes they have and this little chap looked at me in a way which was so endearing, almost heart-breaking.

“He had breathing problems so I got the vet in and he told me to hang on tight - he was going to take his temperature rectally. If such a cute creature can be said to give someone a dirty look, then I reckon Ronnie, the vet got one. Thankfully he made a full recovery but just for a while we could tell people we had a seal pup in the bath.”

n Meet Steve at the Courier’s literary lunch Meet The Authors, which will be held at Bertie’s Elland, on Wednesday, June 22, from 11.30am. The top line up will also include best-selling romantic comedy, chick-lit writer Jane Costello and crime author and scriptwriter Cath Staincliffe. Tickets cost £24.50 each (£230 for a table of 10) and include a three course summer Yorkshire lunch and are available from the Courier reception, King Cross Street, Halifax or by ringing 01422 260272 or 260277